I know lots of people (you probably do too) who do not think of themselves as being at all creative. Perhaps because they think of themselves as being too organised or structured to be good at it. You can’t be both creative and structured, right?
Wrong. The great news about Creativity is that you can apply all sorts of structure to it to generate new ideas, and one such structure is to plan it. Yes, that’s right – you can plan your Creativity. Two of the essential ingredients for Creativity are Time and Space. If you want to come up with new thinking you will need a space in which you can think without interruption and distraction, and you will need enough time to allow ideas to flow.
So, for you structured thinkers out there (if you’re familiar with Myers Briggs, that’ll be those with the J – Judging – preference), here’s the sequence of events:
1. Plan a location in which you can think freely without interruption. Preferably comfortable so you can relax. I would suggest somewhere different to where you do your normal day-to-day thinking. Why? Because physical movement often produces mental movement. In a way, to think out of the box it can help to, as it were, get out of the box physically too. Try doing it on a beach or a long walk. Who says you have to do it sitting down?
2. Plan the time you will need. This probably depends a bit on your thinking style, but I would say long enough for you to overcome the feelings of panic you will experience when you realise there are all sorts of Urgent (but not important) things you could be doing with your time, but not so long that there is no motivation to come up with ideas. John Cleese (who gave me some ideas for this article) suggests 90 minutes is about right. This is enough to get you to dig deeply into your reserves of creativity, and have you avoid the knee jerk reaction of running with the first idea that comes into your head (THE classic mistake made by consultants.)
“It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
The important thing is to put a deadline on it. Knowing that you have 9o minutes of unencumbered thinking time to solve a problem allows you to relax, knowing that your routine distractions will get your attention fairly soon, but it also applies a bit of pressure to get some results.
I find this very helpful. I have got into the habit when writing this Blog of doing just that. Today, for instance, my wife has taken the dog for a walk, and I have told myself I want this article drafted before she gets back.
The biggest enemy of all for Creativity is lack of time. I have a client for whom this is the problem they need to solve. They have heaps of energy and willingness to redesign their internal processes, for instance, but they find they keep coming up with solutions which they feel are not as creative and effective as they could be simply because they do not have the time to unlock the ideas.
So actually they don’t need help with creativity, they need help with Time Management. Which of course is the subject of another Blog. When I have the Time and Space for it!
Here’s the John Cleese video – well worth watching.
Please comment with what works for you. Are we right to say we should plan these things, or does a more spontaneous approach deliver better results? Please let us know.